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Agency Seeking ‘Outstanding’ Pi Royal Caribbean Lease Approval

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Paradise Island lighthouse.

• Environmental Planning awaits PM’s permission

• Entrepreneur urges: Show crown land lease

• Says: ‘Now in my tenth year of seeking govt go-ahead’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Bahamian entrepreneur yesterday “challenged Royal Caribbean to produce” its western Paradise Island crown land lease after a government agency voiced concern approvals are “still outstanding”.

Toby Smith, principal of Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Company, told Tribune Business he wanted the cruise giant to confirm if the crown land it is seeking for its Royal Beach Club destination includes that covered by his own lease agreement which is now the subject of a Supreme Court battle with the government.

He added that the need for clarity had been made more urgent by both the upcoming April 28 public meeting on Royal Caribbean’s bid for site plan approval of its Paradise Island project and accompanying documents, which raised questions over whether the cruise line has all the necessary approvals for its various land acquisitions and leases.

An April 1, 2021, memo from Rochelle Newbold, the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection’s (DEPP) director, to Jehan Wallace, a senior planner with the Department of Physical Planning, disclosed that the former agency was in discussions with Royal Caribbean and its Bahamian environmental consultant to clarify whether the necessary approvals had been issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Department of Environmental Planning and Protection has requested copies of the title deeds to land holdings conveyed to Royal Caribbean for the development of this project,” Mrs Newbold wrote.

“On March 31, 2020,  Department of Environmental Planning and Protection was provided an 85-page document of title deeds and conveyances for various parcels on Paradise Island. Still outstanding is the letter of approval of leases awarded to the developed by the Office of the Prime Minister.”

Royal Caribbean has steadily amassed around 13.5 acres on Paradise Island’s western end by buying out private landowners in the area, but it is also seeking to lease some ten acres of crown land in the Colonial Beach area to complete its development.

This has brought it into potential conflict with Mr Smith, who is seeking himself to lease two crown land parcels at Paradise Island’s western end, one of which involves two acres around the lighthouse and another three acres for the “beach break” element of his own $2m project.

Mr Smith’s court action is alleging that he was granted a valid crown land lease over both parcels, including the lighthouse and the area at Colonial Beach for his “beach break” destination, which is now legally binding.

A January 7, 2020, letter from Richard Hardy, acting director of Lands and Surveys, was headlined “approval for crown land lease” over the two tracts. Mr Smith previously told this newspaper he returned the lease, bearing his signature and other formalities, to the Government on January 9, 2020.

However, the Government has to-date failed to apply its signature and execute the lease, with officials telling the entrepreneur that the document is now “not worth the paper it is written on”.

Mr Smith previously voiced fears that his project was being “marginalised” and treated like “a second class citizen” to make way for Royal Caribbean’s rival beach break destination targeted at the same portion of Crown Land, and he yesterday queried how the cruise line’s site plan approval application could proceed to a public consultation given his live court challenge.

“I have a Crown Land lease that was signed, notarised, witnessed and payment in full offered to the Public Treasury via the Attorney General’s Office,” he reiterated to Tribune Business. “I don’t understand why the Town Planning Committee or the Department of Physical Planning would wish to entertain anything while this is an outstanding matter before the courts.”

However, Adrian White, the Town Planning Committee’s chairman and the FNM’s St. Ann’s candidate in the upcoming election, told this newspaper there was presently no Supreme Court Order in place to to stop the April 28 virtual consultation.

“Has anybody advised you there’s a court order preventing a hearing?” he asked. “All I’m saying is that there’s an application before the Town Planning Committee and a public hearing is being held because that application is before the committee.”

Mr Smith, though, in disclosing that Charles Zonicle, acting director of physical planning, had requested that he produce his own Crown Land lease agreement following his objections to the April 28 meeting, turned this around to make the same demand of Royal Caribbean.

“I challenge Royal Caribbean to produce a Crown Land lease agreement which will only confirm if the land involved in Royal Caribbean’s project is the same as that involved in my project,” he asserted. “This is another example of how the Minnis-led government does not allow Bahamians to thrive in The Bahamas....

“Why is it that Toby, as a Bahamian, is not afforded an opportunity as an investor to sit down and discuss this with the Government, the minister responsible for Crown Lands, with a view to resolving this issue? Today marks the beginning of my tenth year of trying to get this project up and running; begging and this stress every day.

“I have reached out to the chief executive of Royal Caribbean, Michael Bayley, to reiterate that nobody from Royal Caribbean has taken the time to understand my project, the need to respect my lease and understand what my project is all about.”

Comments

tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

The good people of the St. Ann's constituency would be wise not to support Adrian White's bid for elected office.

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proudloudandfnm 1 year, 1 month ago

I a bit torn on this one. On one hand I don't think RCCL should be allowed a beach club on PI. But on the other hand I support their investment in Freeport if they can guarantee us they'll begin operations ASAP. But I also admit that if Freeport had a viable tourism industry as Nassau has I'd oppose RCCL's project fully. And I really do want Tobie to get his project up and running. Weird situation for me....

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 1 month ago

it's truly sad. DAguilar is constantly telling us that Tourism isn't responsible for the tourism product, they need Bahamians to come up with ideas. But this is the 3rd individual over just as many weeks to point out how they brought a private idea to govt and govt screwed them over . Kanoo and the interisland cruises are the other two. How many other ideas of Bahamians have been taken and announced as ground breaking projects conceptualized by the govt and hand picked partners?

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licks2 1 year, 1 month ago

Please. . .yinna Bahamian think that all yall have to do is come up with any "hair brain" scheme and government must "gee yall'' whatever yinna ask for aye?

Lets take the inter-island cruise idea! That industry is ripe and ready for Bahamians to have as a means of moving around in our own cruise destination!!! But Bahamian dem een want to put in place top of the industry amenities for us to do so!! They will "knock together" some half-azz rinkie dink facilities to cater to we. . .no better than the fast ferry services we have now!!

Most modern ferry services in developed countries have "poor people" ferry services far better!!

If the government allows inter-island services I don't want to go on some "donkey" boats. . .I want real cruise ships. . .the big ones like the rest of them tourists them have!! I want the cruise services operate like a real cruise service like anywhere on this planet. . .not like how Bahamians do they half-azz business. . .well most of them anyway!!

If the Bahamians who asked for the services can come together and do something "real real" for once in they "low class-tiefin" lives. . .and get some "real real" ships etc. . .why not give it to them!!

But if them just will come in their regular "poor services and want plenty money" kind-of-way. . . MAKE THEM "CARRY THEY AZZ AND GO SIT THE HELL DAWN"!! This country is marching forward to better things! So until Bahamians can "get they acts" together and carry on like they "gat some sense". . .let them stay they tails in the bush!!

Like the man on PI who said that he "gat one 2 million dollars" lined-up to make PI a world class water park!! Nigga please. . .the break-water that will need to go there will cost him about 3 times that amount!! Or I guess he did not think about that "whole buncha" water that comes over that point when the sea gets rough at times? When I was a high school student some students went on that side and got caught in the surf and were torn apart. . .boat and students alike!! They were "all chop-up" Bahamians would say!

He needs to take his behind on the East side of Arawak Cay. . . them big pieces of cement stones in the water "were not born there". . .nor are they there for pretty. . .they where placed there to keep the Cay from getting washed away in a hurry!!

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 1 month ago

givt first have to give anyone anything. What no citizen expects is for govt to whistle steal their business idea. Allegedly... because anyone can come up with the same idea right? minus the logo at the top of the page

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tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

@licks2: Just like Minnis and D'Aguilar, you seem to worship the worst kind of foreign investors and you're anti-Bahamian any and everything unless you somehow have a stake in it. Contrary to your apparent belief, not all Bahamians are half-arses. But good for you because, unlike the very deceitful full arses (Minnis and D'Aguilar,) you're at least willing to hoist up and fly your true colours for all to see.

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